elderly parent refuses to take medication

Tips for When Elderly Parent Refuses to Take Medication

There may be times when your elderly parent refuses to take medications that are important for managing their medical conditions. Your primary concern is to ensure their well-being and overall health. However, this situation poses a perplexing dilemma: how can you ensure their continued wellness when their medication, prescribed by their doctors, is an essential part of their health maintenance, yet they persistently resist instructions and recommendations provided by their trusted doctor and pharmacist?

When faced with this challenging scenario, recognize there can be many underlying issues contributing to your loved one’s reluctance to comply. These issues can manifest as barriers to their compliance, potentially jeopardizing their health and well-being

Providing emotional support, monitoring their medication schedule, and offering gentle reminders can go a long way in assisting your elderly parent in adhering to their prescribed regimen. Ultimately, the goal is to foster a collaborative approach that empowers your loved one to make informed decisions about their healthcare while receiving necessary support and guidance.

Does Your Elderly Parent Refuse to Take Medication? What To Do Next

Identify Any Underlying Problems with Taking Medication

When an elderly parent refuses to take medication, identifying the underlying issues and reasons why they refuse is essential so solutions can be found. Your parent may not fully understand the purpose and importance of their medications. They may be hesitant if they are unclear about how their medications will benefit them. 

Some of the underlying reasons your noncompliant elderly parent might refuse to take their medication include:

Difficulty Swallowing or Ingesting the Medication

Medications can have an unpleasant taste or be difficult to swallow, especially for seniors with swallowing problems, which may lead to resistance.

  • Confusion as to Why the Medication is Necessary

If they have any cognitive impairment, they might forget or become confused about taking their medicine. If a senior is prescribed multiple medications, they may find the complexity of the regimen overwhelming and be more likely to resist taking them. They also could have misunderstandings about medication instructions from their doctor which could lead to non-compliance. 

It is sometimes possible to simplify their medication regimen. Consult with their doctors and pharmacist to inquire about the best solution for simplifying medications if their current regimen is too complicated. 

Elderly parents who may be in the beginning stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from a cognitive impairment that is intermittent and need to receive more assistance with medication management. Early in the process of these diseases sometimes it is hard for both the parent and caregiver to realize this is happening and that they can no longer manage their medications by themselves.  Our Stellar Care Memory Care and Assisted Living offers multiple levels of care that can help your loved one at whatever stage they are at and ensures they get the support and medication they need.

  • Higher Risk of an Adverse Reaction

If your elderly parent has had previous negative experiences with medication, like allergic reactions or adverse effects, depression, or anxiety they might cause your loved one to be hesitant to take previous medications again or even reluctant to take new medications.

  • Fear of the Side Effects of Medication

Your elderly parent may be experiencing unpleasant side effects from their medication, like nausea, dizziness, or fatigue, or may have fears about side effects potentially happening. They may refuse to take their medication because they associate it with discomfort. If their fears are deeply rooted in anxiety or other emotional issues, consider involving a mental health professional to provide support and coping strategies.

  • Fears about Losing Independence and Control

Sometimes elderly people have fears about becoming dependent on medications and may resist taking them to maintain their sense of independence. They want to maintain control over their bodies and decisions about their health and could refuse medications due to these reasons.

Offer to help with medication management, like organizing pills or setting up reminders. Assure your parent that they can still be in control of the process with your assistance. Simplify the regimen. Fewer medications may reduce the perceived loss of control. 

Striking a balance between their independence and necessary care will help your elderly parent feel respected and may make them more agreeable when it comes to taking their meds.  It may take time and patience to address their fears, and your parent’s willingness to cooperate may increase as they feel more informed and in control of their healthcare decisions or adjust to allowing you or a trusted caregiver to manage their medications.

  • Cost and Lack of Access

Financial constraints or difficulty accessing medications can be challenging for seniors. If they lack access to get them or can’t afford their medications, they may refuse to take them. If you can ensure them of affordability and that medications are accessible, sometimes they will agree to take them. Finances can be confusing for seniors who may feel overwhelmed. If you haven’t already taken over their finances, now may be the time if they feel overburdened. Taking finances off their plate may allow them to focus more on taking their medications properly or they may decide to allow someone else to manage the process for them.

What do you do when your elderly parent refuses to take medicine?

When your elderly parent needs help and refuses to take their medication, there are some steps you can take to improve the situation including:

  • Talk to your elderly parent

It’s best to approach the situation with compassion, empathy, and a commitment to finding constructive solutions. Engaging in open and non-judgmental communication with your elderly parent is the first step. Listening attentively to their concerns and feelings will help you gain insight into the root causes of their resistance. So initiate a calm and empathetic conversation with your parent. Allow them to express their fears and concerns openly. Use active listening and avoid interrupting while validating their feelings.

Acknowledge their fears are legitimate and understandable while offering clear information about their medication’s benefits. Offer choices when possible. Provide reminders or assistance as needed. Involve other family members or caregivers in the discussion and support process to share the responsibilities and provide emotional support. Your loved one needs to know that their feelings are heard and respected.

  • Speak with their doctor

If your elderly parent won’t take the medication they need, it’s wise to involve doctors in the discussion. They can help assess the specific issues and recommend solutions, which may include simplifying their medication regimen, changing the medication form, addressing side effects, providing better education, and offering emotional support. These suggestions may help both you and your elderly parent cope better with medication challenges. 

  • Consider different formats of taking the medication

Sometimes changing the medication form such as taking pills instead of liquid can make a difference in your elderly parents’ tolerance to the medication or willingness to take it properly. 

  • Stay positive

It can be difficult for caregivers to remain positive when faced with an elderly parent who refuses their meds. To ensure your elderly parents’ well-being, medication might hold the key to improved or continuing health, yet seniors may still be resistant. Caregiver burnout can be common when you get stressed and frustrated in this process so ensure you have access to help when you need it. Stellar Care can provide help for your elderly parent, including medication management for residents at our Memory care and Dementia care communities. Contact us today to find out more information about these and our assisted living programs at Stellar Care. We are here to support you and your loved one in the ways you need us.

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